The 31-year-old Sheffield athlete won Olympic gold at London 2012 and a silver at the Rio Games four years later.
After receiving her award, she told how she felt "completely overwhelmed" and said she "fell in love with sport" from an early age.
She added: "I feel incredibly proud of the career I have had."
Ennis-Hill also paid tribute to her family and coaching staff as the "best team I could ever have imagined having."
She retired in October 2016 as one of Britain's most successful athletes.
With the BBC award, she follows in the footsteps of previous winners including footballer Pele and rower Sir Steve Redgrave.
She had her first child, Reggie, in 2014 and won a second world title just 13 months later.
She just missed out on retaining her Olympic title in Rio by 35 points to Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam.
After retirement, Ennis-Hill was made a dame for services to athletics.